"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~ William Wordsworth

The Writing Life Too

And if you're reading this, it means you're not writing.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Interview with Deborah Reed

(and Audrey Braun)
Tomorrow (Monday, October 1) I'll be interviewing Deborah Reed on All Women's Radio. I'm substituting as the host each Monday in October for Susan Rich on her Susan Rich Talks show. (I'll post the link to the podcast after the show.) You can listen in tomorrow here.

About Deborah/Audrey: Aspiring novelist Deborah Reed was one of publishing's success stories of 2011: unable to land a traditional publishing contract, she entered her literary debut Carry Yourself Back to Me into Amazon's Breakthrough Novel contest,while simultaneously self-publishing her thriller debut, A Small Fortune, under the pseudonym Audrey Braun. In a short time she became a Kindle bestseller, signed a book deal, received rave reviews writing under both names in two different genres, and was feature on National Public Radio as an expert on finding literary success outside of the publishing mainstream.

Now Reed (writing as Braun), whose debut novel Carry You Back to Me was deemed "a triumph" by Publisher's Weekly, returns with her widely-anticipated thriller follow-up to A Small Fortune, the first novel since her breakout year: FORTUNES DEADLY DESCENT. 

Listen in. I promise lively conversation and lots of seriously helpful advice about the writing life.

Bonus: We'll be giving away free copies of Fortune's Deadly Descent. Call in at 561-422-4365

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Characters--the inside scoop

Has he/she ever been arrested?
In trouble with alcohol, drugs, food?
Ever been in therapy?
A leader or follower?
Introvert or extravert?
Greatest success?
Greatest failure?
How do they arrive at conclusions: analyze, intuit, feel?
Do they worry a lot or rarely?
How did his or her last relationship end?
Critique group opening.
I run small (as in 4-5 member) fiction critique groups in Portland.
A member just had to drop out for this semester because of a family emergency. So I have an opening. A few things: The group is not for beginning writers or the thin skinned or those with sour dispositions. We offer intensive, high-level feedback and lots of information. We like to laugh while accomplishing a lot. Contact me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Quick Take: Naming

Like all parts of fiction sometimes writers go awry when naming characters. One problem is that they take this technique too far. Examples are naming a macho private eye Rod Magnum or Sam Blaster or naming a seductress Jezebel Flower.
Choose a character name that is age-appropriate and don’t make the mistake of choosing a name that is popular now for an adult character but wasn’t popular at the time of the character's birth. To research the etymology and history of first names go to www.behindthename.com. If you're writing historical fiction, it’s crucial that your names are historically accurate. Thus you wouldn’t name a 16th century character Tiffany or Shawna. But Geoffrey, Humphrey, and Giles have an authentic ring as do Eleanor, Phillipa, and Thomasina. And while Hester Prynne works for moniker of the scarlet woman of seventeenth century, her name wouldn’t work for a contemporary woman. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

eep Fiction: The Anchor Scenes
    Taught by Jessica Morrell
October 20, 9-5
Manzanita, Oregon, The Center for Contemplative Arts
Cost: $80

The task of a novelist or memoirist is to tell a story so riveting that it will hold a reader’s attention for hundreds of pages. This requires intimate knowledge of characters, their inner lives, and central dilemma. It also requires an understanding of plot, the sequence of events that take readers from beginning to end.
These events won’t hang together without a compelling structure that underlies the whole—the essential scenes that every story needs to create drive, tension, conflict, climax, and resolution.  We’ll pay special attention to the architecture of scenes and the plot points and reversals that power stories forward.
Since scenes are those parts of your story where the excitement happens we’ll dissect the core ingredient of each scene: change. The anchor scenes we’ll cover are: Inciting Incident, First Plot Point, Mid-point Reversal, Dark night of the Soul, the Point of No Return, Climax, and Resolution.  We’ll discuss how the protagonist stars in these scenes, how they’re emotionally charged, and build the plot. By the end of the workshop participants will have outlined these crucial scenes and know where flashbacks should be placed to deliver the most potency. As part of the lecture we’ll be discussing the anchor scenes in To Kill a Mockingbird and the film Witness.   Story maps provided as part of the comprehensive handouts.

Contact me for information on registration
The Heart of Writing is over at my website here.

Because it all starts with reading.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Quick Take:

The shorter the story, the more important each word becomes.
I hated historical novels with fluttering cloaks.
Jeanette Winterson

Thursday, September 20, 2012

In Case You Missed It

It's overcast here this morning which I appreciate since my office window faces east and I can look out at the stand of Douglas firs instead of squinting with the shade drawn. I've been rounding up some tidbits about the writing life again. Hope you find them inspiring or interesting as I did.

Who is really reading YA?  According to Bowker, adults. Find the article here.

The Hunger Games and countless others are engaging a loyal following among those old enough to vote, drink and hold a mortgage
New Providence, NJ - September 13, 2012 - More than half the consumers of books classified for young adults aren’t all that young. Fully 55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 – nicknamed YA books -- are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44. Accounting for 28 percent of sales, these adults aren’t just purchasing for others -- when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78 percent of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading. The insights are courtesy of Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, an ongoing biannual study from Bowker Market Research that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids.

The Healthy Freelance Life. Women on Writing have tips for a balanced approach to writing and life.  The always-wise Kelly James Enger has weighed in on the topic.

Over at Hunger Mountain, an essay about the struggles to work at a 9-5 while wishing for a freer schedule to write called My Writing Life.

And from the irreplaceable Jane Friedman 5 FREE Services that help you build an author platform is here 

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"I prefer to talk about the meaning in a story rather than the theme of a story. People talk about the theme of a story as if the theme were like the string that a sack of chicken feed is tied with. They think that if you can pick out the theme, the way you pick the right thread in the chicken-feed sack, you can rip the story open and feed the chickens. But this is not the way meaning works in fiction.

When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story. The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning, and the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you to experience that meaning more fully."~ Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Just for fun....
Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Harper Voyager, HarperCollins’ science fiction and fantasy imprint, will accept complete and unagented manuscripts for two weeks.

From October 1 until October 14, authors from around the world can send their manuscripts through this submission portal. You can find all the submission details at this link. Here’s more from the publisher:

The manuscripts will then be read and those most suited to the global Harper Voyager list will be selected jointly by editors in the USA, UK and Australia.  Accepted submissions will benefit from the full publishing process: accepted manuscripts will be edited; and the finished titles will receive online marketing and sales support in World English markets. Voyager will be seeking an array of adult and young adult speculative fiction for digital publication, but particularly novels written in the epic fantasy, science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, dystopia and supernatural genres.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bitter Truth # 5 is up at my website here.
The advice: don't pop that champagne too soon.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

"If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story, the protagonist is transformed. He's a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn't change, the story hasn't happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another."
~ Donald Miller
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life

Thursday, September 06, 2012

"All of us have failed to match our dream of perfection. I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. If I could write all my work again, I'm convinced I could do it better. This is the healthiest condition for an artist. That's why he keeps working, trying again: he believes each time that this time he will do it, bring it off. Of course he won't." ~ William Faulkner

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

In any case, any narrative more than a few pages long is doomed to failure if it does not set up and satisfy plot expectations. Plotting, then--however childish and elementary it may seem in comparison with the work of surgeons, philosophers, or nuclear physicists--must be the first and foremost concern of the writer. He cannot work out his sequence of events without at least some notion of who the characters are to be or where the action is to take place, and in practice he will never design a plot without some notion of what its elements imply. To say that plot must be the writer's first concern is not to say that it is necessarily the first thing that dawns on him, setting off his project. ... But whatever the origin of the story idea, the writer has no story until he has figured out a plot that will efficiently and elegantly express it. Though character is the emotional core of great fiction, and though action with no meaning beyond its own brute existence can have no lasting appeal, plot is--or must sooner or later become--the focus of every good writer's plan. - The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

Question for writers:

Do you know your characters scene goal or mission in every scene?
In the scene you're writing today?